The three objects above are identifiable probably only to New Englanders. They are, of course, candlepin bowling balls. The sport created in New England is played only here and in some of the Canadian Maritimes.
The sport actually is less popular in Rhode Island and Connecticut, but I’d love to hear from our friends in these states to know if they’ve been candlepin bowling in their communities, or if it’s duckpin they prefer. Or ten-pin, which some New Englanders call “big balls.”
We have Justin White to thank for this sport, who in 1879 bought a billiard and bowling business in Worcester, and developed the game. Bowling of one form or another had been around since people lived in caves, but Mr. White made some refinements, and this particular game’s popularity took off.
For our friends not familiar with candlepin bowling, the game is a bit harder than ten-pin bowling (big balls). The pins are more narrow and streamlined (like candles), the balls are smaller (like grapefruit). The balls can frequently pass right through the spaces between the pins and hit nothing, prompting much harassment from fellow bowlers.
Ten-pin? Heaving a giant ball at a bunch of fat pins, of course you’re going to knock something down. Big deal.
Each game in candlepin is called a string, and a bowler gets three tries each box to knock ‘em down. We leave pins up in configurations called “the four horsemen” or “spread eagle” or a “half Worcester”.
Many of us grew up watching Don Gillis on “Candlepin Bowling” on TV. For more on candlepin bowling, have a look at this website.